UT Southwestern researchers study effect of women's weight loss on shortness of breath during exertion

“I didn’t sweat at all,” Ms. Ritchie said. “Doctors said no aerobic exercise.”

Instead, she lifted weights, and dietitians gave her healthier alternatives to her favorite foods, like chicken fettuccine with heavy cream and butter. She now makes a healthier version of the dish with vegetables on top.

“It’s awesome,” the Carrollton resident said. “I made it for co-workers, and they raved about it.”

Ms. Ritchie’s weight loss plan was part of a pilot trial by doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine designed to study the effects of weight loss on obese women with shortness of breath.

  Tony Babb

Dr. Tony Babb says shortness of breath keeps many obese people from exercising, which in turn can make them gain weight.


“Shortness of breath discourages people from doing physical activity,” said Dr. Tony Babb, associate professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and principal investigator of the project. “But not exercising puts women at greater risk for gaining more weight and developing co-morbidities. These women get caught in this vicious cycle.”

Dr. Babb and other researchers are continuing to recruit women aged 20 to 45 with a body mass index of 30 to 35 who are not currently participating in a weight loss or regular exercise program.

The women will be divided into two groups based on whether they get short of breath while exercising. The women will submit their food preferences to nutritionists, who will give them a diet based on those choices. The women also will go through sessions with a personal trainer three times a week for 12 weeks at no cost to them.

“They’re going to exercise,” Dr. Babb said, “but it’s going to be nonaerobic.”

The exercises will consist of slow resistance movements using weight machines.

The study is part of a series of trials to help determine whether participants’ shortness of breath is a result of being out of shape, or of obesity-related respiratory limitations.

All the women in this phase of the project are expected to lose weight.

“In three months, these women can change the way they look and feel,” Dr. Babb said. “It’s so dramatic to watch, and then other aspects of their lives also start to change for the better.”

The Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine is a collaboration between UT Southwestern and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

To find out more about the study, call 214-345-6574.


Media Contact: LaKisha Ladson
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